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Daily news podcasts: Which one is right for you?

| Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Claire Kopischke | The Observer

The 21st century media landscape is constantly evolving to keep up with technological advancements. In recent years, podcasts have skyrocketed in popularity as consumers realize the value of pouring distilled conversations into their ears. It was only a matter of time before the agents of the 24-hour news cycle infiltrated the podcast market.

Today, every prominent news publication in the country wants you to plug into its daily podcast as you trudge to class with thermos in hand. So, who do you trust to start your morning? Each option has something different to offer.

“The Daily” — The New York Times

The New York Times set the bar high for other news publications with its highly acclaimed podcast, “The Daily.” The soft-spoken host, Michael Barbaro, turns the news into a narrative by skillfully extracting insight from journalists and other guests. 

Depending on the week’s newsworthiness, “The Daily” alternates between covering current events and profiling relevant issues. Every episode is a neatly packaged product. The producers inject comforting continuity into the show with a catchy theme song and predictable pacing. In addition, Barbaro strikes an apt balance between feigning ignorance for the listener’s benefit and contributing his own knowledge on the topic. 

“The Daily” averages 25 to 30 minutes per episode and releases weekdays by 6 a.m. If you can spare the time, the substance and simple pleasures of “The Daily” are worth it.

“Today, Explained” — Vox

Vox constructed and claimed its niche by keeping its finger on the pulse of changes in technology and media. “Today, Explained,” Vox’s daily news podcast, appropriately reflects the image of Vox as a savvy startup. The host, Sean Rameswaram, is just there to have a good time — and explain the day, of course.

“Today, Explained” beams breezy bits of meaningful, microcosmic stories straight to the listener every afternoon. Rameswaram controls the chaos of the news through a lighthearted tone, making it perfect if your brain is fried after a long day of classes. Unfortunately, the show occasionally feels more like “Yesterday, Explained” due to the time constraint of its release cycle.

“Today, Explained” averages 20 minutes per episode and releases around 5 p.m. on weekdays. If you value a combination of high production value and casual delivery, add “Today, Explained” to your evening queue. 

“What’s News” — The Wall Street Journal

The Wall Street Journal gets down to business in its daily podcast, “What’s News.” The show describes the news through rapid-fire sound-bites and one longer conversation per episode.

“What’s News” prioritizes content over character. Wall Street Journal experts in business, economics and politics come on the show to deliver their opinions on current events and corporate behavior. While many podcasts attempt to craft an experience, “What’s News” resembles a simple news broadcast on the radio.

“What’s News” averages 10 to 15 minutes per episode and releases twice a weekday, with “a.m.” and “p.m.” editions. If you’re a Mendoza student with room in your Google Calendar, this is the podcast for you.

“Up First” — NPR

In “Up First,” NPR provides a classic NPR experience — clean, efficient, safe and with a dash of personality. Every episode of “Up First” starts by listing the day’s headlines over a classy jingle. Then, the hosts welcome several guests to systematically explains each headline. Through this format, “Up First” promises the listener cursory knowledge on a myriad of topics.

Unlike its competitors, “Up First” merely lists the date in the episode’s title. Listeners have to take a minuscule leap of faith in the absence of foreknowledge on the episode’s content. However, “Up First” reliably delivers quality information regardless of the day’s news. 

“Up First” averages 10 to 15 minutes per episode. It releases every weekday at 6 a.m. and every Saturday at 8 a.m. If you barely have time for coffee in the morning, “Up First” will happily oblige your schedule. 

“Post Reports” — The Washington Post

The Washington Post compresses two-to-three relevant stories into compact vignettes in its daily news podcast, “Post Reports.” Host Martine Powers engages with Post reporters and other experts to glean significant information for the listener. 

Episodes of “Post Reports” progress like two or three act plays, with each act being its own story or news event. Powers keeps the show flowing despite each act’s unique style and identity. In this manner, “Post Reports” pulls off the difficult task of telling multiple substantive stories in each episode. 

“Post Reports” averages 25 to 30 minutes per episode and releases weekdays at 5 p.m. If you want a middle-ground podcast in terms of breadth of scope and depth of coverage, “Post Reports” is for you.

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